I finally learned the wounded woman’s name — Alaa Asawafiri — when I found her mother in a hospital corridor, her cheeks smeared with tears, clutching her daughter’s silver sneakers in a plastic bag.
A nervous frisson ran through the crowd as it pushed toward the fence between Gaza and Israel on Sunday evening, halting 75 feet from the wire.
I had traveled to Gaza from Cairo ahead of what are expected to be enormous demonstrations at the border fence this week. I wanted to first see the site of the protests on what I thought would be an uneventful evening.
“[Liberman’s claims are] ridiculous comments that are not worth responding to. Yasser has been working for years in the press and making films for the United Nations, China and others. They killed a journalist and should confess it is a crime.”
— Rushdi Al-Serraj, Ain Media director and co-founder with Yasser Murtaja
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday said a Gaza journalist who was reportedly killed by Israeli gunfire over the weekend was a member of Hamas.
The claim was immediately rejected by one of Yasser Murtaja’s colleagues, who called the statement “ridiculous.”
Palestinians say Yasser Murtaja was shot Friday while covering violent mass demonstrations near the Israeli border. He was reportedly shot in the torso while wearing a vest emblazoned with the word “press” and filming in an area engulfed in thick black smoke caused by protesters setting tires on fire.
“Yasser Murtaja was a civilian and a journalist who was wearing clear press identification while he was filming the demonstrations at the Gaza fence with Israel. He was there because he wanted to document civilians exercising their right to peacefully protest.”
— Jan Egeland, Norwegian Refugee Council secretary-general
The drone floats above the farmland at the east of Gaza’s narrow coastal strip where beyond the fence — the transition is almost invisible — Israel’s border communities begin.
The video is among the last footage filmed by Palestinian photographer Yasser Murtaja in Gaza before he was shot dead by Israeli troops last Friday — and it eerily foreshadows his own fate.
Palestinian demonstrators walk through the flat fields, hold signs or sit in the shade of tents in the five border protest camps that dot the landscape from east of Jabaliya in the north to Khuza’a, a short drive from the southern city of Khan Yunis.
Murtaja died on the second of a series of mass Friday protests called the “Great March of Return,” which will culminate on “Nakba” Day (catastrophe in Arabic) on 15 May, which will commemorate the events of 1948 when, following the creation of the state of Israel, more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes.
Despite wearing body armour clearly marked with a press sign, Murtaja was shot in the stomach while covering the protests and died later of his wounds. He was one of nine Palestinian men killed in a space of a few hours.
“Our legitimate protest against Israeli military occupation, colonization and apartheid is granted in international law and must be protected by the international community. . . . The 70-year-old practice of Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy and dehumanization of the Palestinian people must end.”
— Dr. Husam Zomlot, Palestinian ambassador to Washington
Tens of thousands of residents in the besieged Gaza Strip plan on returning to the Israeli-controlled border Friday [Apr 6] in defiance of menacing promises from Tel Aviv to use massive and disproportionate force. The event will occur exactly one week after the Israelis massacred 17 unarmed demonstrators with live ammunition on Palestinian Land Day.
The protest is the latest in a six-week-long set of nonviolent protests meant to commemorate the continuing dispossession of the Palestinian people and the absorption of ancestral Palestinian land by the country now known as Israel.
The series of events will last until the 15th of May, a date making the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel — known to Palestinians as Nakba Day, or “The Day of Catastrophe” — when three-quarters of a million Palestinians were brutally displaced by Israeli militia in 1948.
“There is fear that the situation might deteriorate in the coming days.”
— Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, assistant UN secretary general for political affairs
Gaza hospitals, running low on blood and overstretched by the huge number of wounded, were reeling after one of the enclave’s bloodiest days outside of open war, in which Israeli soldiers shot 773 people with live ammunition, according to the ministry of health.
Fifteen of the wounded died, said the ministry spokesperson Dr Ashraf al-Qidra. “Most of the dead were aged between 17 and 35 years old,” he said. “The injuries were on the upper part of the body.” He added that the remainder of the wounded, some of whom were in a critical condition, had been “shot with live ammunition.”
The violence erupted on Friday after mass demonstrations took place demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to land in Israel.
“Hate crimes are the highest priority of the FBI’s Civil Rights program, not only because of the devastating impact they have on families and communities, but also because groups that preach hatred and intolerance can plant the seed of terrorism here in our country.” — FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich-Williams
The FBI has opened a federal civil-rights investigation into the shooting of a Sikh man who says he was wounded by a masked gunman who told him to “go back to your own country.”
Ayn Dietrich-Williams, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Seattle office, acknowledged the investigation in an email Monday afternoon.
“The FBI is working with the Kent Police Department and will collect all available facts and evidence to determine if there is a federal civil-rights violation,” she said. “As this is an ongoing investigation we are not able to comment further at this time.”
The federal investigation, which will be conducted in conjunction with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, is in addition to a criminal investigation being conducted by Kent police.
“Of course the Israeli settlers target him. The people who are activists, or the people who try to document Israeli violations, are being targeted by the Israelis all the time, because they don’t want to allow people to see the reality of how life is here.” — Hebron resident Ayman Samir
Emad Abu Shamsiyah first started receiving death threats in March, after a video he filmed for Israeli rights group B’Tselem, which captured Israeli soldier Elor Azaria shooting dead Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, 21, was released to the public. The video sparked a media frenzy surrounding the incident, and directly led to the initial indictment of Azaria. Shamsiyah has not had a good night’s rest since.
Shamsiyah lives in the city-center of Hebron — arguably the most contentious city in all of the occupied West Bank — and the only city-center where Palestinians and Israeli settlers live side-by-side.
During the case, Shamsiyah was frequently accosted by Israeli settlers near his home, who demanded he change his testimony. After last week’s ruling, which found Azaria guilty of manslaughter, the threats against Shamsiyah have reached a new level, as 67 percent of the general Israeli population supports a full pardon for Azaria.
The lack of support for the manslaughter ruling has translated into anger among Israeli settlers, who have a neighbor directly responsible for the main evidence in the case. As a result, Shamsiyah cannot walk the streets of his neighborhood without fearing for his life.